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News of the Weird


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Lead Stories

Last month the metropolitan transit board of Santa Cruz, California, obtained a judicial order restricting one of its own members, Bruce Gabriel, from bus travel. According to court documents, the handicapped Gabriel has deliberately hit two drivers with his wheelchair, knocked over a boy in a crosswalk, and verbally assaulted passengers. Gabriel said that the collisions were accidental and that he's merely an aggressive advocate for the disabled.

Earlier this month in Halberstadt, Germany, an organist kicked off a performance of John Cage's "Organ 2/ASLSP" ("as slow as possible"), which was written to last 20 minutes, but thanks to imagination and technology, this performance will last 639 years, a comment on the frenzied pace of modern society. The first note of the piece will last six months.

Georgia state representative Dorothy Pelote, speaking earlier this month during the legislature's opening prayer ceremony, informed colleagues that her psychic powers had enabled her to catch a glimpse of Chandra Levy's dead body in a ditch. Asked to comment, house speaker Tom Murphy told reporters that he hadn't heard Pelote too well, though he was standing within earshot.

No Longer Weird

Adding to the list of stories that were formerly weird but now occur so frequently that they must be retired from circulation: (47) A husband welcoming his wife back into the marriage after she's just tried to murder him, as David Martin did in Moulton, Alabama, in June after his wife had emptied a gun into him and his father. And (48) authorities punishing young miscreants for having blasted their stereos in public by making them listen to other genres, as Judge John Nicholson of Cambridge, Ohio, did last month when he sentenced Alan Law to listen to polka.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

In July, Fox News reported on Hidden Vestments, a lingerie shop in Santa Monica, California, that tailors its silk undies for cross-dressing men (a lace-edged vest-and-boxer set goes for $136)....And according to a June story in the Denver Post, Buck Weimer of Pueblo, Colorado, sold his entire first run of Under-Ease, airtight briefs whose charcoal-filter lining supposedly prevents flatus from escaping into

the air.

Science Breakthroughs

In July, 53-year-old Richard Davis settled out of court with a London doctor and a pharmaceutical company after claiming that bromocriptine, a drug he'd been prescribed, made him so sexually wild that he wound up filing for bankruptcy and being convicted of fraud.

A research project led by Purdue University professor Michael Ladisch revealed in June that a chocolate bar being developed for the military contains special nutrients that will alter the consumer's body temperature, warming soldiers in cold climates or rendering them invisible to thermal-imaging equipment.

The Weird Workplace

Police in Northumbria, England, agreed in April to pay Detective Brian Baker the equivalent of several thousand dollars to compensate him for the snoring habit he says he developed after inhaling dust from seized marijuana plants over many years.

In May the Associated Press profiled Tim Nelson, who works for La-Z-Boy testing recliners all day. Nelson said that sitting down, kicking his feet up, and rocking back and forth all day is much harder than it looks. Colleagues said that he had one of the hardest jobs at the La-Z-Boy plant in Dayton, Tennessee, certifying the comfort and balance of up to 130 recliners a day (10 to 15 of which are rejected).

People With Issues

The Guardian reported last month that 71-year-old William Lyttle has been digging up his multiacre property in north London for years, once going down about 50 feet before he got bored and filled the hole with cement. In his latest excavation he ventured past his property line for the first time, authorities say, and caused the street in front of his home to collapse.


In July 2000 the toxic garbage pile in the Patayas neighborhood of Manila collapsed and killed more than 200 professional scavengers. This past July the Associated Press reported that the pile is still active and more dangerous than ever. The government offered to relocate the scavengers, but most stayed because they can earn as much as $3 a day (U.S.): "Hundreds of self-described scavengers, many with skin rashes and teeth nearly as black as the toxic mud that caked their feet, followed in a swirl of flies, mangy dogs, diesel exhaust and flying cockroaches....The children who splash and play in the fetid runoff spread skin fungi, tuberculosis, hook worms, and stomach viruses at an alarming rate." A tough clean-air act that bans incineration has recently increased the dump's volume.

Thinning the Herd

Last month in Lebanon, Oregon, an 18-year-old man hanging out of the passenger-side window of a car died after striking his head on a trash can....In July a 38-year-old man in Vancouver, British Columbia, fell 15 floors to his death after accepting a dare from a buddy and trying to hang from an apartment balcony....And in June a 39-year-old man was killed in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, when his speeding car struck a parked semitrailer truck; a witness told police the victim appeared to be reading a newspaper as he drove.

In the Last Month

Responding to several noise complaints, an environmental officer in Stockport, England, urged citizens to be quieter at night while making love....In its latest advertising campaign the University of Bonn in Germany profiled famous alumnus Joseph Goebbels, describing him as a philosophy student and propaganda minister but failing to mention his role as an architect of the Holocaust....

And a 39-year-old woman in North Fort Myers, Florida, killed one of her sons but failed to kill his brother when her bullet lodged in the Bible he was carrying.

Send your weird news to

Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader,

11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611

or to

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.

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